Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Day 1 – Arrival

This is not a typical medical tourist scenario. As a medical travel facilitator accompanying a resident of the destination country, I did not go the normal route that includes transportation arrangements and concierge services. However, my goal in the coming posts is to document my observations and experiences to give medical tourists an insider’s perspective on the process.

After arrival at the airport in San Jose and a breezy trip through immigration and customs, I hailed a taxi to drive me to Costa Verde Inn in the Escazu suburb. It was much like any drive from an American city to an outlying suburb: we passed car dealerships, McDonald’s, strip malls, business complexes, middle class neighborhoods, condos, and sprawling estates.

A striking difference, however, was the lush green and blooming foliage along the way as well as the mountains on the horizon. Within 15 minutes of the airport, we arrived at Costa Verde Inn, an unexpectedly quiet, tropical retreat, and one of many in the Escazu area. Our room was huge, with two king-size beds, a full but miniaturized kitchen, and a shower big enough for four. The inn’s common areas are open to the outdoors, complete with a pool, palms, and mango trees.

There is a covered outdoor dining area that serves a full breakfast every morning. The reception staff is friendly and speak fluent English, and the free internet access is faster than I get at home. All this and we are paying around $65 per night.

Awaiting Elena’s arrival in San Jose, I ventured out in the evening for dinner and a trip to the supermarket. A $4 taxi ride delivered me to a mall much like one in any large city. It was not exactly the exotic experience you might expect to find in Costa Rica, but the familiarity helped allay anxiety about our big day tomorrow.

A few things to note about Costa Rica: unlike other parts of Central America, you don’t see people living in poverty. Frankly, there are fewer panhandlers than in any American city I have visited, including my hometown of Austin. The locals maintain a moderate lifestyle: kids go to quality schools, homes are small but tidy, and residents have access to free medical care.

Elena has arrived, so we’re off to bed to prepare for an early arrival at CIMA in the morning.

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